"They didnt embarrass themselves! And Kaman was still a beast." Citizen John R.
High praise indeed.
AYSO-everybody-wins kidding aside, the Clippers played a good game tonight. The difference between the players on the floor was really huge. I mean, Dallas simply has guys out there who can make shots - lots of shots - tough shots. They were putting shots in the air that no Clipper would dream, and they were making them. The Mavs shot 55% for the game and the Clippers shot 43%. And yet the Clippers hung in for a very long time.
When Chris Kaman went to the bench to start the second quarter, the Mavericks went on a 12-0 run to build an 11 point lead. And basically, that was the ball game. It fluctuated some around the 10 point mark - the Clippers cut it to 3 once in the third quarter, and got within 6 in the fourth. The Mavs would build it up to as much as 15. But that 12-0 run with Kaman on the bench stood up the whole game, and the Mavs won by 13. (With Paul Davis unavailable in the second half, MDsr did not rest Kaman at the beginning of the fourth quarter as he normally would. It's clear the Clippers need the guy on the floor to be even semi-competitive, but let's not wear him out completely in games that they're simply not going to win.)
I think this was probably Chris' best game of the season. Let's face it - he's not sneaking up on anyone at this point. He's in every inch of the scouting report when you play the Clippers. Hell, he is the scouting report. Plus, Dallas has some pretty big guys to throw at him. And all he did was score 24, grab 19 rebounds, dish 5 assists and block 3 shots. Even his 6 turnovers were mostly the 'right' kinds of turnovers (if there is such a thing) - twice he lost the ball to slapping hands after he got an offensive rebound. Once he elbowed Devin Harris in the face on a double team (I'm not clear how that's even a foul - when Kobe brings his arms through the defender's arms, it's a foul on the defender, right? Why should the defender's face be allowed to do something the defender's arms aren't allowed to do?) There was one bad pass out of the double team, and on that one you could argue that Al Thornton was not where he was supposed to be. So the 6 turnovers look bad in the box score, but they weren't that bad in the game. Likewise, he should have had a lot more than 5 assists. Tim Thomas missed a layup after a Kaman pass, Quinton Ross got a layup blocked, not to mention the countless missed jump shots. This guy could be putting up triple doubles if he had ANY help at all.
Chris just looked good from the beginning of this one. He was active on offense and defense. He was rebounding, deflecting passes, and going to the basket aggressively. After missing a tip that he should have dunked early, he did not make the same mistake again, finishing a tip later in the quarter with authority. He also delivered a big time dunk on a feed from Dan Dickau in the second. Two dunks from Kaman in the same half is a very good sign.
So what about that help? Well, as a team the Clippers shot 43% tonight - which sounds really awful, until you realize it's the first time they've shot over 40% in a week, and it's actually above their shooting percentage on the season. Unfortunately, when you take away Chris' own 11 makes on 18 shots, the rest of the team shot just 26 for 68 - that would be 38%.
But we went into this game knowing the Clippers were going to lose, so let's look beyond the final score. In the game preview, I said we should look for Thornton and Davis. How'd that go?
Thornton showed signs of his vast potential in the fourth quarter. He scored eight quick points, all off of one-on-one moves. He drained a long pull up jumper, then hit a tough turnaround, then he got the bucket and a foul on a nice pump fake/lean in move in the lane, and then drew another foul going hard to the rim. On a team desperate for anyone who can create (and hopefully make) shots, he looked like exactly what the Clippers need for about 4 minutes. Now he just needs to do that about 1000 more times.
Davis looked pretty good in 8 minutes off the bench. He made two jump shots (and missed two layups). He grabbed 3 rebounds and was pretty active on defense. And then he went to the locker room with a knee injury. They're calling it a strain right now, but it did not look good as he was leaving the court. Even Zo was putting some weight on his knee as he left the court the other night, and he tore a tendon. Davis wasn't putting any weight at all on the leg as he was helped off. It seems strange, but there are only two currently healthy Clippers whom I'd less like to see injured: Kaman and Thornton. That's it. Not that I want anyone else to get injured, and not that Paul Davis is so vitally important to this team. But Davis has intriguing potential for the future of the Clippers, and let's face it, it's all about the future right now. We'll know more about Davis after an MRI.
Cat Mobley actually shot the ball well tonight (5 for 9, 2 for 4 from the arc) in another positive development. In fact, it is the first time this season that the Clippers have lost when Mobley shot better than 42%. We knew that streak couldn't last (although Cat's streak of shooting badly seemed to go on forever). Before his bout with stomach flu, Cat seemed to finally be getting over his groin and elbow problems. Surely MDsr is going to insert him back into the starting lineup at this point. I mean, we get it, you can't start Brevin Knight and Ross because neither one can shoot. But don't make the same mistake with Cat you made with Corey Maggette. I know you want offense coming off the bench, but you can't always get what you want. Start Mobley. We're not seriously going to start Richie Frahm the rest of the season, are we?
The Clippers tip off in San Antonio against the Spurs a little over 20 hours after the end of this game. They'll have 10 guys in uniform for the tip. Josh Powell may see minutes in the first half of a game. They will definitely lose to the Spurs. But if they don't get embarrassed it would be a moral victory.